So, what does a community do when it wants all-day kindergarten for its students? How do you trigger this sort of reform when the State Legislature has shot it down in previous years? If you are the people of Montana, you build a cadre of advocates, recruit credible and relatable spokespeople, and deliver your messages in the most effective way possible to reach your intended targets.
The Billings Gazette relays the facts — http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2007/03/29/news/state/54-kindergarten.txt.
So what is the communications story they are telling? Four simple things:
* You need to put a human face on the call for reform. Focusing on the parents and kindergarteners affected by the State Legislature’s decision to strip all-day K from the agenda is effective. No question about it. How can you deny a fresh-faced (or voiced) five-year-old and his mother access to education? You can’t.
* Have a specific ask. Montanans aren’t just mobilizing around the concept that kindergarten is a good thing. They have a specific ask. They are calling on state residents to support all-day K and demand the Legislature provide the funding for it. Simple issue. Easy to understand. And every stakeholder knows what their specific role should be.
* Don’t stand alone. Concerned parents in Montana joined with education groups and unions to advocate for reform. This puts a squeeze play on the Legislature, with multiple audiences demanding the same action. When it comes to reform, better to form a strong chorus than sing alone against the white noise of the status quo.
* Effectively deliver your message. This coalition didn’t just sit on the steps of the state capitol and shout for change. They took to the airwaves. And they did so in one of the more effective ways to reach citizens and decisionmakers in a state like Montana — they went on the radio. Their message will be carried across the state, again and again, until folks are satisfied with the resolution.
So who wins? It is too early to tell if the four- and five-year-olds of Montana will actually get their all-day K, but the Governor looks great, seen as an education reformer blocked by the Legislature. The parents and ed groups and unions who are pushing this look pretty good too, demonstrating a desire to reform, doing what it takes to improve the schools, and doing so in a manner that the average mom or dad can get behind. They definitely earn an A for communications strategy in this class.
Let this serve as a primer for all those other states grappling with the great universal pre-K and and all-day K debates.